If SMEs are going to drive sustainable economic growth in 2024, digital transformation isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s crucial for success, writes Jessica Harvey, business unit manager at Digital On Demand, a division of Tarsus on Demand.

An empowered small and medium enterprise (SME) sector is a critical growth engine for the economic development of the country. As such, the rise of the digital era is one that is propelling excitement and anticipation in this market sector, in that digitilisation makes it easy for these smaller businesses to broaden their scope and expand their operations.

The adoption of digital payment solutions is also evidently on the rise in South Africa, significantly enhancing business operations. According to the 2023 SME Confidence Index, approximately 64% of local SMEs say that they believe e-commerce will have a positive impact on their business. This reflects a growing trend towards digital solutions in the business landscape. The survey highlights the top areas where SMEs in Africa require support, with some 88% suggesting they need help digitalising their businesses.

This is a key reason Tarsus launched its Digital on Demand (DOD) unit, which aims to assist with the education and acceleration of the digitalisation process for SMB businesses throughout Africa. DOD has created a platform, the Digital Business Hub, which features cloud-based solutions designed to solve challenges experienced by typical businesses using technology and cloud-based solutions.


A digital transformation vision

One of the foremost challenges SMEs face lies in identifying a starting point for their digital transformation journey. Digital On Demand understands this problem, providing a roadmap specifically tailored to both the unique needs, and the future aspirations, of each business.

It is critical that SMEs begin this journey posthaste, as digital transformation itself is no longer a competitive edge, so much as it is merely a ticket to the game. Today, many companies will only work with you if your processes align with their business, meaning a lack of digitalisation actually creates the risk of losing clients instead.

Those SMEs that have not begun digitalising, or that plan to in the new year, to focus on building a brand new business, to ensure they are digitally native. This includes creating automated processes, so the business can start gathering data – the lifeblood of the digital world – from the word go.

There are many reasons to digitalise your business, not the least of which are the near-future implications of the latest technologies. For example, in 2024 the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be a key focus for many businesses in the SME arena.


Looking to the future

By implementing AI and machine learning, SMEs can reduce the load on limited personnel resources, enabling the business to scale without having to increase headcounts or overheads. SMEs should not view AI as a threat to business, but rather as an opportunity to scale their business at a reduced cost.

There are two other big opportunities for growth in 2024 – the first is by fostering a strong focus on micro learning, which is more about learning skill sets and knowledge bases, than obtaining formal certifications. Secondly, it is vital to embrace sustainability, as this will increasingly inform customers’ decisions, with the modern consumer wanting to do business with others that are equally focused on sustainability.

At Tarsus on Demand, we envision being at the forefront of the African digital narrative for SMEs, facilitating seamless transformation and promoting growth and innovation within this vital sector. This is because we recognise that the impact of SME digitalisation is far-reaching, promoting sustainable economic growth, inclusivity, and resilience against economic headwinds.

Digital On Demand is poised to set the stage for a more vibrant, innovative, and balanced economy, one in which SMEs can play their critical role in helping South Africa towards a prosperous future for all.